Higher Learning at Spinach DJ Academy

Being a professional DJ has gained respectability over the last decade. Back in the 90’s, a DJ’s public image was often associated with drugs and underground parties, but that is no longer the case. These days, taking DJ lessons is regarded by young musicians as not much different from learning the piano.

Spinach DJ Academy, the first DJ school in Kemang, opened in 2005. Founded by Riri Mestica, one of Jakarta’s most respected DJs, Spinach has grown not only as a DJ-training center but now also includes Spinach Records. The academy has trained about 600 students in the past five years, and about 200 former Spinach students are now practicing DJs.

“DJ School is for everyone, whether you’re learning it as a hobby or pursuing a career. There is no age limit,” says Ricky Tampubolon, distribution manager at Spinach Records. To give the students real-life experience while learning, Spinach integrates practical training sessions in the local clubs. “One of the advantages of taking courses with us is that we have a job training program at Barcode,” Ricky says, referring to Riri’s outdoor terrace and club located in Code Fin Kemang.

Students at Spinach are offered the opportunity to try their hand at performing for audiences at events like Royal Rumble, which is held every two months to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their DJ skills in clubs around Kemang.

Every student is introduced to the basic manual old-school equipment: a turntable and a vinyl. In the 80’s, before the CDJ era, DJs worked with two turntables and a microphone. Spinach students have to learn basic turntable skills before they can use Pioneer CDJ. “A turntable is much more difficult because everything is manual, if you can handle that, then moving on to CDJ will be a lot easier,” says Ricky.

At the end of the day, being a DJ is all about a love of music and the joy of making people dance. So what does it take to be a good DJ? “Some just have ambition, and they make it easily,” says Ricky. “But you need to have the whole package — talent, looks and the ability to socialize.”

DJ Gladiator is a former student who took a two-month Basic DJ Class at Spinach last year, and now plays progressive house music regularly at clubs such as 999, Musro, Domain, Barcode and Bloeming, as well as private parties around the city. “When I first joined Spinach, I started from zero,” says DJ Gladiator. He chose Spinach, he adds, because of DJ Riri, who inspired him to pursue a career as a DJ. Spinach has opened doors to advance his career. “The instructors never stop teaching us, even after we finish the program,” he says.

Most students at Spinach range from their 20s to their 30s. “In general it’s never too old to learn anything. Any music lover or anyone with a music background can be a DJ,” says Luckyta, a finance executive at Spinach Records.

Spinach DJ Academy also has some teen students. Thirteen-year-old DJ Putri Danizar has already had a lot of experience on the DJ set and was among the top ten of SE7ENTUuNE Next Generation DJ Contest last year at the Jakarta Convention Center. “Lucky me, not everyone has an opportunity like I did at such a young age,” says Putri.

DJ lessons can be taken for fun, not just to build a career. “We used to have a student who worked at Pertamina, and he would come in wearing his work suit,” says Ricky.

Like any other hobby, being a DJ doesn’t come with a cheap price tag. The club standard equipment, Pioneer CDJ 1000, costs about Rp 15 million, and a DJ needs two of those, plus a mixer, headphone, speaker and Apple laptop, the most essential tool. If you take courses at Spinach, all that equipment is provided.

Spinach DJ Academy offers many different types of classes; basic DJ class, basic private class, club DJ class, turntablism class, digital DJ class, and electronic & dance master class, with the price of courses ranging from Rp 800,000 to Rp 6.5 million.

For students who want to make a career of DJ-ing, it’s easy to get back your investment on the expensive equipment. “Yyou can make around 1 million a gig, for beginners, and female DJs sometimes can make more,” says Ricky.

DJ Deena Rhythm, a female R&B DJ based in Jakarta, plays regularly at nightclubs such as Domain, Equinox, Tribeca NYyC and has also performed abroad. She decided to become a DJ because of her love for R&B music. “I enjoy playing music and it’s not easy to master Hip-Hop/R&B,” she says. Deena ignores sexist bias in the business about the skills of female DJs. “I don’t pay any mind to what other people say, and most of the guys are my friends. DJs have a bond with each other.”

Iwan Putuhena Reports

Original article was published in Kemang Buzz

Higher Learning at Spinach DJ Academy

Pictures by Dissy for Kemang Buzz

Spinach DJ Academy/Spinach Records

Jl. Kemang 1 No. 12H,
Tel: 021 719 0584
Fax: 021 719 5127
spinachrecords.com
spinachrec.wordpress.com

My Kemang: Dhiah, Clubber

Dhiah, 21, spends several nights a week clubbing in Kemang and is a regular guest at a number of venues. We caught up with Dhiah at Venue, one of her favorite clubs in South Kemang. She talked about what she loves about the nightlife in Kemang, the hottest places to party and her resolution for the new year.

How often do you hang out in Kemang?
I started coming here around four years ago. Back then I hung out in this area almost every day; lately I’ve cut it down to about three times a week (laughs).

What do you normally do around Kemang?
My night usually starts at Shisha Café, dinner at KFF (Kemang Food Fest), then off to Triple Nine, Venue, Nu China, or wherever the party’s at.

Where do you go most often?
I like to go to Venue, it’s one of my favorite places, because on Mondays it’s 50 percent off for drinks, and Wednesdays is ladies night with R&B music. I feel like I’m promoting the place now (laughs).

Do you get privileges as a regular?
Of course, but I already get special privileges just for being a lady; I’m talking about free drinks and entry on ladies night. I normally get invitations and guest list to places almost every day. And almost everywhere I go, there are people who also party as much as I do. We know each other from hanging out, so we join tables and party together.

Do you call yourself a ‘clubber’?
I don’t go clubbing to get that title or recognition. I just happen to really enjoy going out, being with friends, being around people, talking and drinking. So I think it’s an accidental status (laughs).

What’s the hottest nightclub right now?
I would say Second Floor, because they recently renovated the club and it’s packed almost every night.

Do you live in Kemang?
No, I live in Central Jakarta, behind Grand Indonesia, because it’s closer to my work place. But I would love to be in Kemang. I used to live here a few years back. It was comfortable because everything is in the area. But being away doesn’t stop me from partying here.

Why do you choose to party here, it’s so far from where you live?
It’s my second home. When you’re in the area, everything is near and convenient; the clubs, restaurants, boutiques and lounges. Everything is within a walking distance, so it’s easy to hop around.

Where do you work?
I work in public relations at After Hour Sarinah, a billiard bar in Central Jakarta. Before that I was an SPG (sales promotion girl) for a variety of products and brands.

Where are you originally from?
I’m originally from South Jakarta, born and raised, so I’m comfortable with the area and I’m not scared to go places by myself or to walk in the street.

Do you think Kemang is affordable?
Well, it depends. There are expensive places and fine restaurants, but I think there are many more places for young people and professionals that are affordable.

What do you drink when you go out?
I would like to drink my favorite liquor, Johnny Walker Blue Label, but since I can only afford Black Label, anything mixed with that will do just fine. My friends and I usually buy bottles, because it’s much cheaper at the end of the night than buying drinks by the glass.

Do you have a boyfriend?
Yes, he is a DJ at one of the clubs in the area. But I don’t go to Kemang because of him, because he plays classic disco, and I’m not really into that (laughs).

What don’t you like about Kemang?
Not being able to get a table especially when you really looking forward to go to that particular place whether it’s at the club or restaurant. Kemang is always crowded, and it happens a lot, particularly over the weekend, some places don’t take reservations.

What is your New Year resolution?
I will try to quit smoking, because lately I’m starting to feel like I’m getting short of breath. But I’m not ready to quit drinking just yet (laughs). In the beginning I wasn’t a smoker but when I’m drinking it makes me want to smoke, so it will be a challenge.

Recently the government banned smoking inside public buildings. Do you think they should regulate that for clubs?
Well it would be nice to provide an outdoor space for smokers, like a balcony or roof top. I think it’s a good idea to enforce the non-smoking law in the club, because sometimes when everyone smokes in a packed room with bad circulation, my eyes gets watery and my clothes and hair will smell like smoke when I get home.

Do you think there will ever be a “last call” for partying?
Not anytime soon (laughs). Only when I’m in mourning, like recently when my father passed away. I was sad and stopped going out for 10 days, but then I couldn’t resist wanting to go out again. I guess I can say partying is kind of like a healing process for me.

Dhiah was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in Kemang Buzz

My Kemang: Dhiah, Clubber

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

My Kemang: DJ Icon

Everyone knows Kemang has some of Jakarta’s best nightlife. But we’re usually not aware of those behind the scenes — the event organizers, club managers, bartenders and DJ’s, who all play a role in lighting up the party. For Muhammad Nurhadi Furqoni, a resident DJ at The Green, Kemang, known to most people as DJ Icon, it’s all about mixing work and pleasure. We caught up with him on the set one Saturday night and got a DJ’s take on work, clubs and the ups and downs of life in Kemang.

How long have you been a resident DJ at The Green?
I’ve been a DJ for four years and a resident DJ at The Green for over two years.

What inspired you to be a DJ?
I became interested in becoming a DJ mostly from the influence of friends. My parents supported my decision to become a DJ, and from there my hobby turned into a job. I learned by watching other DJs; I didn’t have a background in music before that.

How did you come up with your DJ name?
My nickname is uQon. So I changed this to Icon to make it easier for people to remember my name. And, well, I would like to be a real “icon” one day.

Can you take me through your day as a DJ?
When I wake up, the first thing I do is prepare the music for the coming night according to the theme, say a beach party, or Halloween or ladies night. I don’t practice; I normally go freestyle, because the crowd is unpredictable and I have to be able to lead the crowd as I play. Then I go in early to the club for the briefing. After that I just do what other party people do — have a beer and relax, while monitoring other DJs until it’s my turn to play.

What are your responsibilities as a resident DJ? 
As a resident DJ I have to play opening and closing for two hours a set. And sometimes in between, when the DJ provided by the event organizer plays badly, I have to take over. Before the night begins, I have to check the DJ lineup and make sure they’re qualified. Basically I’m responsible to control the quality of music and maintain it according to our style.

What type of music is “in” at the moment, especially with the Kemang crowd?
Dutch House, it’s a high-energy and pumping sound.

Is it annoying when people ask for a request?
It depends. For a special guest or friends, I have no choice (laughs). Sometimes if people request music that’s a different style from my original set, I won’t play.

So what do you like the most about being a DJ?
Getting the crowd to dance while I play and, of course, attention from the girls. It’s all about the girls [laughs].

Do you have a girlfriend?
Yes, I’m happily in a relationship.

Got any fun stories to tell about DJ-ing?
Well, once there was this girl who drank a little too much. She decided to strip and dance right next to me while I was playing. I think she was having too much fun.

What do you like most about working at The Green?
Working with the crew at The Green is very relaxing. The owner and staff are like family, so I’m very comfortable playing here. And the DJ equipment here has the latest tools.

Where else do you play?
For special events, I play at Venue, Triple 9, Second Floor. And I play out of town as well. I’m allowed to play wherever I like, with permission from the management.

What else do you do besides being a DJ?
I’m also a DJ instructor at OS DJ Studio with DJ Oky Sydney, who is one of my mentors. I teach R&B, while DJ Oky teaches progressive music.

Do you make your own songs?
I work together with DJ Oky Sydney to make re-mixes, but I haven’t produced my own songs.

What’s the best thing about living in Kemang?
I think it’s the lifestyle. Everything is happening here in Kemang, especially if you’re a nightlife person. There are a lot of events and parties, so for me it’s easier to get gigs and network if I live in the area.

How would you make Kemang a better place?
Kemang is already a great place, except for the traffic. I would suggest that party people get in the clubs before 10 pm during weekends. Normally they come at the same time, which is after midnight, and that causes traffic on Kemang Raya.

Where do you like to hang out in Kemang?
I enjoy chilling at Food Fest eating dim sum, because it’s 24 hours and I sometimes finish work at dawn.

Where do you think is the most happening place in Kemang?
Well, you know [laughs], I have to say The Green, because it’s one of the biggest clubs in Kemang, and we have one of the best sound systems.

DJ Icon was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in Kemang Buzz

My Kemang: DJ Icon

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

My Jakarta: Moammar Emka, ‘Jakarta Undercover’ Author

Sex sells. Just ask the author Moammar Emka, whose wildly successful “Jakarta Undercover” trilogy exposed the darker corners of the capital. Here, Emka talks about some of his wilder adventures, the lessons he learned from his foray into moviemaking and his latest book.

JK Rowling was rejected 12 times before someone agreed to publish ‘Harry Potter.’ How many publishers rejected ‘Jakarta Undercover’? 

Seven or eight I think, because at that time anything related to the sex industry was taboo. Every publisher that I presented the draft to wanted to revise 40 to 60 percent of it, until finally Galang Press in Yogyakarta, a small publisher at that time, was willing to take the risk. My first book deal, the original “Jakarta Undercover,” had a print run of 2,000. For me, having someone publish and distribute my book was satisfying enough, it didn’t matter how many copies were printed. But who would have guessed it would become a hit.

Now it’s a trilogy. What are the differences between books one, two and three? 

Each book is about different places and covers different people and walks of life. The stories told in “Jakarta Undercover I” are about high-society people and their exclusive parties, while in book two its more about sex entertainment and the working girls, and three is a combination of both. The “menu” in this industry is always changing; yesterday it was “ sashimi girls,” today it’s “ sashimi boys.”

But you can’t be ‘undercover’ anymore, people must know who you are. Don’t the people running or involved in this industry feel threatened by you? 

Yeah, at first. After being on TV and doing interviews, half of high society didn’t want me there anymore, however the other half invited me in. Some places liked the publicity and wanted me to promote their new place or group.

What’s the craziest thing you ever saw while researching the ‘Jakarta Undercover’ series? 

Let’s see, invite-only parties where everyone was having sex. There are also places in the city where you can get mandi kucing, where the girl licks you all over using red wine, milk, ice water, hot water or jelly. In Kota, there is a hotel with theme rooms and girls dress up as mermaids, doctors or schoolgirls, according to your preference. And there is a place in Glodok where you can have sex with a duck.

What’s your new book, ‘Cinta Itu Kamu,’ about? 

It’s not a novel; it’s a compilation of short stories, poems, quotes and thoughts in both Indonesian and English. There’s a CD that comes with it where I read passages aloud with soothing music playing in the background. There’s also a track where I sing. The book covers everything from a broken heart to falling in love, from nice words to whisper to your girlfriend as she’s falling asleep to pick-up lines.

It sounds very different from your previous projects. Why the switch? 

As an author, I can write about anything that I’m passionate about. This project is new for me, I like the challenge; I’m writing in a different style and singing. I think people have already read enough about sex and they might not want to hear more about it for now. Maybe in a couple of years from now, but definitely not now.

Everyone says Indonesia is such a tolerant nation. Would you agree with that? 

I believe that, but I don’t believe that it’s true for everyone. There are people who are open-minded, who see things not simply as black or white.

How so? 

I like to go to modern Muslim universities and speak at seminars or lectures. I graduated from a pesantren, a Muslim boarding school. I believe that you can have a good debate and discussion on any topic with anyone. I’ve had them in Makassar, Yogyakarta, Jakarta, all over. When I do talk shows on air, the computers crash and the phone lines jam with people calling in to say all kinds of things, from “your books are eye-opening” to “go to hell.” It doesn’t always go smoothly. I’ve been kicked off the stage many times, and once there were guys on motorcycles just circling the building and they all had knives. Sometimes I feel like I’m on trial.

You wrote the novel and scripted and produced the film ‘Tarzan ke Kota’ (‘Tarzan Goes to the City’). Have you ever seen that guy walking around Jakarta who looks exactly like Tarzan, loincloth and all? 

No, never, I was inspired by old Tarzan movies. But the whole film was a mess; I should have just made a horror movie [laughs].

You’ve got a girlfriend now. Is she the least bit intimidated by all your experiences?

No. I don’t go to those sex parties anymore. I met her at a seminar on transsexuals in Bandung, she was the MC. I’m 35, I’m slowing down, and I need to think about starting a family.

Emka was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original Interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Moammar Emka, ‘Jakarta Undercover’ Author

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

for more information visit www.emkamoammar.com

 

My Jakarta: Melvyn, World Traveler

Melvyn knows her way around the country. But in due time, she may know her way around the world as well.

As a travel consultant, she has virtually figured out the global road map like the back of her hand. But her recent trip to Europe as a lone backpacker gave her a more intimate insight into other countries to which most of us only dream of going. It also helped her gain a better understanding of herself and how to travel on the cheap with help from a very useful Web site.

You just recently came back from a trip to Europe. Tell me about that experience. 

It was great. I finally got to travel by myself. I’ve been dreaming of going on a backpacking trip all my life, and I think I just spent all of my life savings [laughs], but it was worth it. I went to Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France and the Netherlands in 45 days. I gained a lot of experience during that trip. There are just so many stories to tell.

Do you think it’s better to travel alone or be with friends?

I used to be indecisive when I was with my friends, but because I went on this trip alone, I felt like I learned to make decisions on my own. Traveling alone is nice because you make decisions by yourself. If you want to do something or go somewhere, you just do it. But I did constantly meet up with people everywhere I went, mostly from CouchSurfing.org

Tell me a little bit about CouchSurfing.org. 

It’s a nonprofit organization with members from around the world. Basically, it’s a Web site that helps you find a host who can accommodate your stay in a country you choose to visit. And you can also be the host yourself. To be able to experience a new culture right at your home is cool, but it’s also a good way to meet people. And not everyone just wants to find a place to crash. Some just want travel tips from locals.

You are a couch surfer representing Jakarta. How long have you been doing this? 

About two years. I’m living with my cousin, so I can’t always invite people to stay at our place. But being a host doesn’t always mean that your guests have to stay at your place. You can also serve as their guide and take them out for a good time.

Where do you usually take your guests? 

Standard sightseeing, which includes going to Monas, the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, the old city and the highlight, of course, is making them eat durian. I also take them out to the city and ride the ojek , the bajaj and the bemo .

Where do your international guests usually come from? 

From Singapore, the US, Portugal, Holland and England.

How many couch surfers are there in Indonesia? 

In Indonesia there are thousands, but in Jakarta there are only a few hundred. I don’t know the exact number, but I know not everyone is active.

Don’t you think it’s dangerous to invite strangers into your own home? 

There are people who think it isn’t appropriate to invite strangers to their homes. But by letting them stay, I think you’ll eventually get to know them better. And there’s a reference system that you can also use. I’m sure there are incidents, but that can happen at any networking site.

Where are you do you originally come from? 

I’m from Palembang, South Sumatra. I was born there and I stayed there until I was in high school. I moved to Bandung to study at a university where I took up communications science and public relations. I moved to Jakarta in 2005.

Why made you decide to move to Jakarta? 

When I lived in Bandung, I spent most of my weekends in Jakarta. After I graduated, I got an offer to work at a company that was into wedding photography. Then one day I saw an ad from a travel agency, and I thought it could be interesting. I applied, got accepted and I’ve been working in the field ever since.

Tell me a little bit about working at a travel agency. 

I work as a travel consultant. I make reservations for plane tickets and hotel accommodations. I’m also into product development and serve as tour leader. I do a lot of research, organize information and get in touch with local travel agencies everywhere that can work with us. I’ve arranged tours to China, Egypt, Thailand and several more countries. I’ve also served as a tour guide for destinations around Southeast Asia.

So you managed to ‘couch surf’ throughout your recent trip? 

Pretty much. I was serving as a host before my recent trip, so when it was my turn to travel, some of the people that stayed at my place kind of returned my hospitality. I was sleeping in all sorts of rooms. I stayed in a living room, a guest room with a private bathroom and at times on the floor with only a blanket. You just can’t be picky.

Have you been able to coach-surf around Indonesia? 

Yes, at Bandung, Bali, Solo, Semarang and Yogyakarta. Even though I have friends living in Bandung, I stay with other couch surfers because I travel with a guest. This is to meet people from other parts of Indonesia with the same ideas in mind: traveling on a budget.

Melvyn was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Melvyn, World Traveler

Picture by Iwan Putuhena